Gubernatorial candidate Dave Thomas joined 1819 News: The Podcast on Tuesday to tell his story and explain why he believes he should be the next governor of Alabama.
Thomas is a unique character and vocal about certain positions some in the Alabama Republican Party might find controversial, such as the legalization of marijuana and concern about environmental issues.
Thomas is also an advocate against political corruption and wants Alabama to become more independent from the federal government and the rest of the world.
And he might be the only candidate in the race who enjoys skydiving and playing bagpipes.
In and out of politics
Thomas was born in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1965, but moved to Shelby County, Ala., in 1975. He married his wife at age 17 and had his first child at 18.
As a husband and father, he worked his way through school at the University of Montevallo and eventually moved to Springville.
Thomas' political career began when he became a Parent-Teacher Organization president. In the late '90s, he considered running for the Board of Education, but a friend convinced him to run for the legislature instead. He unseated the incumbent, winning the election by 6%, he told 1819 News.
“We shocked a lot of people because I wasn’t part of anybody’s inner circle, which was fine with me," said Thomas. "I prefer the view.”
In 2002, Thomas ran for Secretary of State and says he came "within .01% of defeating Democrat Nancy Worley". He decided to take a leave from politics to focus on his family and start a business.
Thomas now owns TB & Associates Inc. and is currently working on constructing a primitive campground called Little Canoe Creek Campground, which started as a personal project that he eventually realized could be a business opportunity.
In 2020, Thomas ran for mayor of Springville against someone he called a “local tyrant” and won.
“It was time to get back in the arena,” Thomas said.
Political corruption in Montgomery
Thomas is critical of career politicians and cronyism. “I’m not beholden to the special interest.
“…I’ve been pretty disappointed my adult life of those who’ve stepped up and stepped forward, those career politicians and the like.”
After the podcast, Thomas criticized the incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey over mask mandates and lockdowns and said she “didn’t know what was wrong with the rest of us” when 60% of Alabamians were not vaccinated.
“That’s a complete and utter failure of leadership," said Thomas.
A more independent Alabama
Thomas said he wants Alabama to be less dependent on imports and wants to see what he can do about bringing jobs in the textile industry back to Alabama from overseas.
“There’s nothing that we need that can’t be produced in Alabama,” Thomas said.
He also stressed the importance of being more independent from the federal government and selective about what money the state accepts with “strings attached".
“...Washington, keep your money," he said. "… keep your strings, and we’ll keep our freedom.”
Thomas said the most significant thing he could do if elected would be to “get out of your pocket, and get out of your way”.
Thomas is an advocate for legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational use and expunging records of those arrested for simple possession.
Thomas said he blames propaganda for misunderstandings about marijuana.
“I refuse to perpetuate the propaganda of the past," said Thomas. "We’re adults. Let’s have an intelligent adult rational conversation. Again, I come down on the side of freedom and liberty and responsibility… As long as we’re being responsible, your freedom shouldn’t be impeded.”
He also said he would consider working to legalize the psychedelic substance psilocybin, which is found in many species of fungi. He cited recent FDA studies which suggest the substance could be a “breakthrough therapy” for people with certain conditions. “It’s been revolutionary,” Thomas said.
Thomas told 1819 News that he wants to prioritize the issue of mental health and believes cannabis, and possibly psilocybin, can help.
“As people so often try to argue that cannabis is a gateway drug to narcotics, I would argue quite to the contrary that there’s something else going on in that person’s life and between their ears that leads them down that path to narcotics," said Thomas. "...I’d like to do something to address those needs and challenges that are facing individuals and families - drug addiction and other behavioral problems that just haven’t been addressed by the state.”
Thomas said he does believe there should be oversight over marijuana if the state legalizes it.
“You do need to be of age," Thomas said. "You do need to show an I.D, just like with tobacco and alcohol, other regulated products.”
He also said he wants to abolish the grocery and the income tax in the state. He said the gas tax needs to be “frozen immediately” in response to the increasing gas prices, much like governors in other states are doing, such as Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia.
“We’ve got to do something about this never-ending element of the tax," said Thomas.
Thomas said he wants to legalize gambling if that’s what Alabamians want but criticized the current legislation.
“I think that people deserve and are demanding, quite frankly, a clean and simple bill," Thomas said.
When asked about the Alabama Beverage Control (ABC) board, which controls the state’s wholesales of liquor while operating retail package stores, Thomas said he thinks it's “anti-free market for the state to compete with private enterprise".
“[It’s] another form of tyranny," said Thomas. "We don’t need to be in that business."
Thomas said he thinks the environment is a matter of responsibility and does not think that means he is less conservative than other candidates.
“Conservativism is based in responsibility, being responsible," Thomas said. "And so is nature conservancy."
“We need to be environmentally conscious,” Thomas said after the podcast. He said he is not sure environmental oversight is entirely the government’s role and commended private groups that hold businesses and governments accountable.
“We just need to do a better job protecting our natural resources in one of the most, if not the most, biodiverse states in the union," Thomas said.
Thomas said he supports school choice and wants to reform education in Alabama. He said he supports allowing taxpayers to enroll in “any state-funded programs at no charge".
After the podcast, Thomas clarified his statements. He said he only supports sending tax-paying Alabamians to school for free for “skilled training and workforce development,” not to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree.
He said he wants to promote vocational schools and skilled trades for some students instead of college.
Overall, Thomas’ message was straightforward. He is upset with the current establishment and wants to bring more accountability to Montgomery while permitting everyday Alabamians to exercise their liberties without interference from the state.
“If you’ve ever wondered aloud, ‘why can’t we’ or ‘why don’t we have just an ordinary citizen step up and serve in these roles and not the career politicians,’ well, here’s your chance,” Thomas said. “...I’ve got the resume. I’ve checked all the boxes, but I’m having to rely on a grassroots campaign because, well, special interests have got their own interests and their own candidates, and I’m not one of them.”
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email will.blakely@1819News.com.